The tourism industry is encouraging the cruel treatment of the elephants of Thailand and India. Accounts and documented evidence of terrible treatment of the gentle giants has led to an uproar and appeal to tourists to shun riding the elephants and actively thus participating in their exploitation.
The lucrative elephant tourism trade is fuelling the exploitation of the elephants of Thailand and India. A study conducted by World Animal Protection throughout Asia has found that the popularity of elephant rides and other forms of elephant entertainment is only fuelling the exploitation and leading to an increase in the number of elephants being exploited.
A survey conducted by WAP found that almost 75% of the 3,000 elephants held in captivity for the tourism industry are being tortured regularly to make them participate in the entertainment process. WAP described the condition where the animals were kept as “severely cruel.”
Captive Elephants Of Thailand Subjected To Extreme Cruelty
The captive elephants of Thailand were tied with short chains that were less than 3 meters. They were required to stand for hours on concrete trees where they were subjected to the sounds of celebrating humans for long periods, which affected them severely.
Around 160 companies have now promised to stay away from promoting or participating in elephant exploitation in any form.
They have also pledged to desist from participating in, selling tickets, or promoting any venue that offered elephant shows and rides. As far back as 2016, TripAdvisor had announced the trade of tickets to shows that promoted the exploitation of elephants and other animals. This is expected to bring down the incidents where tourists participate in direct interaction with elephants.
The Global Wildlife and veterinary advisor, Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach of World Animal Protection says that there has been a surge in the cruel practice of elephant riding. He says that tourists need to distinguish that the captive elephants of Thailand and India are snatched from their herds and cramped in inhuman living conditions all their lives.
Practices That Can Stop This From Happening
Tourists need to be educated across the world to desist from such inhuman practices. Laws and regulations also need to be more stringent to prevent the continuation of such practices.
Only venues where elephants are kept in isolated sanctuaries away from direct contact with elephants should be encouraged and those participating in the confined elephant industry should be incentivized to shift to such industries.
The venues where elephants of Thailand, Laos, India, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Nepal participated in such captive industry were studied. it was found that only 200 of the 3,000 elephants surveyed in 200 venues were living in conditions that could be considered acceptable, but were still in close captivity. These were venues where there still exists an absence of direct interaction with tourists. So such animals did not participate in rides or circus tricks and were left unwashed for long periods.
The elephants of Thailand were the most exploited. And their number to are huge when compared to the other countries surveyed. There was an inflow of 30 million tourists in 2016, and 40% of those surveyed had an elephant ride planned on their tour. That would indicate that the elephants of Thailand alone interacted directly with around 13 million tourists.
Most of the elephants of Thailand forced into the tourism industry are captured quite young from the forests. The process to break them starts immediately where they are subjected to inhuman cruelty till they submit to the whims of their captors.
The trainers or ‘mahouts’ themselves live in unacceptable conditions and are paid poorly. This naturally affects the way they handle the young elephants.
The elephants of Thailand and other Asian countries are on the endangered list of both the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the endangered species list released by CITES.
Traffic, the monitoring network has reported that the elephants captured and forced into the tourism industry are trapped from the forests of nearby Myanmar. They can fetch up to $60,000 and endure long marches across treacherous terrain.
Elephants continue to be on the bucket list of most tourists who come to Asia and Africa. Most consider it to be an act of romance and bravado. Rarely do they consider the cruelty behind the industry!!
Other than the elephants of Thailand, dolphins, lions, tiger cubs, are all subjected to cruelty and broken before they are forced to interact with humans regularly. All these animals suffered irreparable harm to their psyche.
The Condition Right Now
Some elephants of Thailand are now being kept in humane conditions, probably as concerns from the tourism industry itself have forced it to change to a more humane face. Such enclosures are known as ‘sanctuaries’ or ‘rescue centers.’ Such enclosures restrict the number of visitors and ensure that they are kept just for observation from a respectable distance according to the norms.
The Thai administration is also doing its bit to restrain the negative image it brings to the tiny nation that is dependent on the tourism industry for its survival. It has plans to save the elephants and other animals by creating a database starting with one for elephants. It has also strengthened it’s policing along its border with Myanmar.
The absurd practice of deriving joy from seeing an elephant do ridiculous acts can only stop if the tourists themselves are knowledgeable of this absurd practice. That, and the active participation of the administration can only save the elephants of Thailand and other countries of Asia.